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Tilting At Windmills

Posted on Thu Dec 5th, 2019 @ 7:57pm by Captain Akiva ben-Avram & Captain Mrazak & Lieutenant Colonel Storr Garlake & Commander Arianna Frost & Lieutenant Commander BaoJun Qiao & Lieutenant Sophie Xiong & Lieutenant JG Kara Madavi & Gunnery Sergeant Roderik Kos & Ferrofax & Lieutenant JG Grace Sternwood Ph.D. & Chief Warrant Officer Maisy Amburton PhD

Mission: S1E4: The Hills Have Eyes
Location: USS Phantom
Timeline: MD 1

=/\="This is Captain Mrazak to all essential personnel. Report to the USS Phantom for immediate embarkation."=/\=

===Lieutenant Xiong’s quarters===


Having just settled down with a good book, Sophie was more than a little annoyed at having to get up again. Would this be the way things always were? Would she always be looking forward to relaxation only to be forced to forego it almost immediately? So far, this seemed to be the tone of her life.

With a sigh, she set the book aside. “Sorry, guys,” she said to the characters inside its covers. Patient Zero, Agent Wolgast, Amy Belafonte, and the rest would have to wait. She grabbed a duffel which contained the essentials and headed out the door only to double back and grab the book as well. After all, she may have a few spare minutes to read on this trip.

===Docking ring===

A grunt of annoyance was the only sound the accompanied the footsteps in the deserted corridor. Maisy Amberton has just arrived on the station and now would have to turn around and get right back on a ship. She wasn’t a fan of ships- cramped and crowded places- but recognized their necessity- how else would they get from point A to point B, after all?

“All right, all right,” she sighed, turning on her short little legs and scurrying in the other direction. “I’m going.”

"To be late, yes. Yes, you are," the AI Ferrofax reported. "And looking at these fitness reports, well...we all have room for improvement, yes?"

Maisy blinked and looked around. Of course! This station had a sassy computer, didn't it? "You say that like you think I don't know that I'm fat," she laughed, resuming her course. "But, as you can see, it hasn't affected my level of fitness. I run regularly. Even compete in marathons a few times each year. Came in eleventh a couple months ago! I'm quite proud of that. usually end up in the middle somewhere. But, I don't do it to win; I do it because it's fun! Now, then.... what were we talking about?"

===Secure Lab 2===
Bao looked up from the interface he was tapping at, working at deciphering the language the mysterious box's interface was written in. It was somewhat slow, but he was figuring it out bit by bit, and it was a good way to pass time, since connecting the universal translator was absolutely forbidden. The first and only time that had been tried, according to the records, the box attempted to obtain and broadcast a data-dump of the networked computers memories. He tapped his badge, "Aruetyc alor'ad, Ni na lise narir," he grumbled, forgetting to switch back to a language in the universal translator's toolbox. He thought for a minute. He needed to secure the box and grab his go-bag. "Ferrofax, inform 'Captain' Mrazak that I will arrive within 20 minutes."

===Phaser Firing Range===

With a PADD in hand, Rodi supervised a dozen marines from the security squads going through a long-range marksman exercise. Previously Rodi had ran them through a building clearing drill in teams of four. He glanced down on the PADD, several screens full of notes about the men and women. He needed to form his new team. There were eight marines that were in serious consideration after this marksmanship trial. When his combadge ordered him to report to the Phantom he replied with a simple "Acknowledged." before turning his attention to the PADD. "Haaskivi, Ax't, Hsu, Bradley, grab your gear and go-bags. Report to the Phantom in twenty. The rest are dismissed." And with that, Rodi himself turned around and exited the firing range to grab his own equipment.

===Frost's Office===

Evidence was mounting as were the more or less conflicting reports from within the team regarding the Soukara mission. Minor discrepancies were within tolerance, as they signaled that her interviewees weren't telling a single, identical story, but rather their interpretation of the same, which always differed. Bigger discrepancies, such as when a certain Person of Interest was encountered and how, how a certain event ended and so on, these were the ones to keep an eye on, as they indicated someone was not being truthful, whether by design or faulty memory.

So, when Mrazak's voice broke Arianna out of her sixty sevent re-read of Report 337-2B, she was glad for it as she was getting frustrated at trying to pick that one detail that would unravel the truth behind the matter. Time away from the desk would be good, she reckoned, as well as a chance to observe the others outside of the interviews and to get to know them as co-workers.

"Frost, acknowledged." She tapped her commbadge to acknowledge the summons.

Quickly, she locked down all of the files and put the PADD's in a secure container before going to gather her field equipment and puttin a fresh uniform on.

Grace groaned, "I am never going to get anything done on this station," she yelled, out of frustration. She inserted a command into her console in her quarters that began to shutdown experiments and tests that she was running on her private devices. When she closed down the system she switched to the Starfleet console and activated a similar command. Mostly it was a program she'd written to make it look like she was doing something of use to Starfleet while she was aboard the station. When really she was just counting down the time until she could go back to being a civilian.

She had learned a few things from her experience so far and went about changing into a uniform that was prepped and ready to go. She grabbed a bag of things that she had kept packed and then she made her way toward the Phantom. "I'm not a field person..." she grumbled, to nobody, as she proceeded down the corridor.

"And with that, the two lovers were torn apart. Continue this later? That's assuming, of course, I don't get thrown out for being completely and uncharacteristically overjoyed."

Jaya chuckled at the thought. "I guess I'd better get over to Sickbay and have the doctor officially declare me pregnant. Wouldn't want you to get written up for a failure to keep a straight face for no reason!"

The Station Commandant kissed his blushing bride on the cheek and turned on his heel. While he did not want to leave, it was something like the dentist...hated, yet necessary and the sooner you went the sooner it was over. At least that's what he kept telling himself over and over on the way to the turbolift.

While the field team assembled, Akiva sent out a priority subspace transmission to Llorona Station, which he had just recently learned was the administrative center for the sparse infrastructure of Venus. He waited patiently for the administrator and wondered what he would say, bureaucrat to bureaucrat, about their unknown and foolhardy purpose.

"You know..." Ferrofax said softly. "...I could send a data spike through the comm's array, override the call forwarding software of Llorona Station. Very painless, minimal computational damage on their end. It would barely feel it."

As a former Ops Chief and an eminent computer systems expert, Akiva grimaced at the breach of cyber-etiquette. "Eh, let's call that Plan Beth."

A few minutes later the Starfleet Seal disappeared, fading to black before being replaced by the Llorona Colonial Seal. It was several more minutes before that seal was replaced by the visage of an older Andorian, his features hard and clearly annoyed with being called. Serav Ch'vihron had been the Colony Governor for nearly twenty years at this point and hated dealing with the public directly.

"Llorona Station administration office... what can I help you with today." Usually, he had an assistant for this kind of thing...

Now that Akiva had the lesser on screen, he did a double-take. It was surprising at first to see a non-human as colony administrator of Noga, aka Venus, yet given the fact humanity had been unable to begin terraforming the planet without the help of Federation technology, Akiva wondered why he felt so surprised. Was it due to the almost exclusively human population of his home colony?

"Thank you for your time," Akiva began. This was going to be awkward any way he sliced it, so he might as well jump ahead. "I represent a joint Starfleet program that monitors stellar and planetary events on behalf of multiple divisions. Our cross-disciplined team has identified your colony as a location of interest, and so I'm reaching out to inform your of their imminent arrival."

"All Starfleet programs, transfers, and proposals must be brought to Lieutenant Madavi for evaluation and then approval." Serav sighed, did nobody ever read the information packets when booking trips to Venus? "Once a proposal has been submitted, it will be reviewed by our research council, presuming your proposal is accepted we can then start working on setting you up all permit applications you'll need..."

Akiva smirked at the Andorian. Playing coy was part of the job, especially when he had to coerce local authorities and commands without tipping his hand too much. However, sometimes an old fashioned push was necessary. "Of course. However, our team will require an expedited process. I am sending you a file packet in this subspace transmission that should satisfy every administrative and security protocol." As Akiva input his command into the desktop console, an inverted delta and theta symbol appeared in the corner of the screen -- a symbol which he knew the Andorian administrator would see. Even if he didn't have the clearance to know what it meant, the file would be the skeleton key that would unlock all the doors in the bureaucratic labyrinth. "I am certain your Lieutenant Madavi will be most accommodating upon receipt of that file, which is to say that you should expect our team's arrival within 24 hours."

"Madavi can welcome you for however long and in whatever way she likes for all I care." The Andorian grumbled as he looked over at his monitor, reviewing file names as they uploaded to his system. "But you... and all your drab automatons can sit in that cramped Starfleet facility until I say otherwise. The civilian council decides what happens on Venus, not some Fleeter who's playing at having his own Military Junta. You'll wait your turn just like everyone else."

Had Akiva truly thought there was a threat, he would've been irritated. As it was the Andorian's resistance was music to his ears. Mrazak would have to flex the full brunt of his authority in order to make this go anywhere, and all for a fool's gambit. It was almost too good to be true.

"I'm afraid that our team is already underway," Akiva said with a light apologetic tone. "This notice was just a courtesy, though. Once they arrive, they will require full access to your colony's security. Captain Mrazak will provide all necessary authorization." He could barely contain his glee at how this was looking to go down.

"Does putting that Uniform on immediately make you stupid or does it take some time?" Serav grumbled more than asked as he sat forward, clasping his hands together in front of him. "Listen here bantha brain, You...Do...Not...Have...Authority...Here."

Akiva barely suppressed a grin. The more the other man protested, the deeper Mrazak would have to dig before finally burying himself. "You may lodge your concerns with Starfleet's Office of Special Investigations. Good day, Administrator."

Serav went purple in the face, standing from his desk pointing threateningly at the Fleeter. "Stuff it your arrogant bastar...!" The screen suddenly went blank, cutting the line and the arrogant Andorian off.

Perfection. Akiva sat back just for a moment to revel in the development. All that was left for him was to ensure a front-row seat to the coup de grâce.

Mrazak toured the Engineering level to ensure the Quantum Slipstream Drive would be ready to go. Satisfied that all was in order, he returned to the Strategic Operations Conference Room and was pleased to discover the team of specialists had already assembled. It was perhaps the first time in recent memory he wasn't left waiting for everyone to arrive at their leisure.

Between Qurban's omen and this unprecedented synergy, Mrazak could not help but see the hand of fate in this mission. If only he had details to share with them.

"Good day," Mrazak said by way of opening. "I'm certain you're all wondering why you're here, but the truth is that we don't know." He paused for a moment, searching for the right words. Words that would've give away his empty hand. "We've received notice of an undefined Theta level threat, which means that mission data is still forthcoming. In many respects, we will need to perform a... general inquiry and investigation... on the target planet in question."

He activated the holo-display, from which sprang a semi-transparent spinning model of Venus. "Any questions?"

"What leads us to believe there is a threat?" Grace asked, not really comprehending what was happening. They were responding to a threat they didn't know why it was a threat?

Mrazak bristled at the question. "A confidential informant provided intelligence that indicated a cataclysmic threat is imminent at that location." His eyes scanned the table for other inquiries.

Bao rolled his eyes. "In other words, nothing," he said. "If I am not mistaken, that planet is Venus, or Sol II, as in Earth's neighbor, minutes away from and within the transporter network of Earth, the Federation's capital. And yet, we have zero information about this supposed threat or its nature and nothing that suggests it even exists, aside from the Captain's supposed confidential informant" he continued, his tone suggesting that he thought 'confidential informant' to be a cover word for 'delusions'. He gave Frost a look, "And are we even allowed in the field? Internal Affairs does not seem to be finished with us yet."

"While I cannot speak for Internal Affairs, seeing as how Commander Frost has been with us for several weeks, even months now, there is no reason for us to ignore a..." Mrazak fought for an adequate adjective. "... suspected imminent threat. As always, our findings will be relegated to the appropriate command while we classify and reserve all Theta level data and assets for ourselves."

"If IA had any issues with Theta even discussing this," Arianna finally spoke up, "let's just say you wouldn't be. So let's focus on the issue at hand. We have an informant with information which, as of now we do not know whether it is actionable or not. So, what do we know?" Arianna pointed towards a blip in the atmosphere of Venus. "Llorona Station. Who wants to go first?" She looked over at the assembled officers.

The inertial dampeners kicked on, signaling the ship was underway. Mrazak nodded in approval. That Ryland Dedeker was clearly following orders with the heading he'd been given without needing to check back in for a pointless conversation. All was going according to plan...

"I think I have something to offer."

The voice belonged to none other than Captain Akiva ben-Avram who had just entered the room. He searched for an open spot at the big round table and ultimately squeezed in between Storr and Grace.

"What are you doing here?" Mrazak blurted.

Akiva took obvious pleasure in the situation. "I just conferred with the administrator of Llorona Station, who is also the de facto governor of the Venus colonial infrastructure, and I wished to convey the details of that conversation in person."

"But... we just..." The words came out of Mrazak like pulled teeth. "... left the station."

"That's correct," Akiva said.

"So you're accompanying this mission?" Mrazak countered.

"Correct again."

The stern pout on the Vulcan's face could've shattered a mirror. "Who is in command of Overwatch?"

"A senior officer," Akiva said, "and that's as specific as I care to be. With the new quantum entanglement communication system, I will be able to maintain constant real-time contact and remotely administrate as needed. Isn't that right, Ferrofax?"

"Indeed. And using the same QEC router I will be able to provide on-site support as needed to facilitate the missions completion.," Ferrofax reported. "In fact, that close into the Sol QEC Relay, I should be able to be a much more effective means of data retrieval. Fewer quantum uncertainties over a short range."

"Which is to say that we'll have the greater Federation database at our disposal," Akiva said with glee. "I can't see any problem there."

Mrazak scowled nearly deep enough to generate a low-level warp field. "Fine. I assume the information you gleaned from your bureaucratic colleague is valuable. Dispense with it whenever you're ready."

"Very well." Akiva covered his mouth to clear his throat before beginning. "Administrator Serav Ch'vihron will be ready at Llorona Station with colonial directors and leaders to provide a situation report of their operations. Be forewarned, however, the gentleman was not enthused at the prospect." The glance he spared for Mrazak predicted total humiliation in the Vulcan's immediate future.

"Splendid." Mrazak said. "Since Captain ben-Avram was so kind as to arrange that on our behalf, perhaps we should establish a baseline regarding the planet itself. What do we know of Sol II? Is it much different from Earth?"

"That was my favorite planet when I was a kid," announced Maisy with a nostalgic smile. "First of all, it only rotates every 243 earth days, which makes its day 17 weeks long. Obviously. Simple math." She shrugged as if they all had probably done the mental calculations themselves. "Anyway, dayside is tundra with intermittent acid rain. Average temperature is 40, but ranges between 30 and 60. Nightside is actually hotter than the dayside- averaging 60C, but ranging between 40 and 100. The atmosphere traps the sun's heat during the day and causes it to become a scorching inferno at night. At least on the surface. There's oceans of dry ice and misty carbon dioxide vapor depending on whether the sun can penetrate the atmosphere. Most of the toxic gases are trapped in the stratosphere or below, which makes the mesosphere relatively safe for various mechanical and electronic machinery. There's some there, adding hydrogen to the atmosphere in small doses. Crazy temperature fluctuations, though, due to the faster winds in the atmosphere than at the surface. If you think there's a difference on earth, you should just check out Sol II! It's like a cool summer breeze on the surface and a cat five hurricane in the sky."

Mrazak fell silent while he listened. "Sounds like a Vulcan holiday destination," he said glibly once she'd finished. Just before he moved on, Mrazak did a double-take. "Wait. And just who are you again?"

Maisy chuckled. “Sorry, sir,” she replied. “Chief Warrant Officer Maisy Amburton. Geoscientist. I’m here to tell you all the wacky things I know about planets- and explain when something is going wrong with them!” She beamed at him, looking quite proud of herself.

It took a whole minute for Mrazak to stare her down and decide they'd never met. "I see. In that case, welcome aboard."

“Thank you, sir,” replied Maisy cheerfully, still with that bright smile that spoke of grandma’s homemade pumpkin pie and a cozy fire and hot chocolate. And probably also a sing-along at the piano.

Mrazak had already repressed her name from conscious recollection down into the netherworld of his subconscious. "Yes, yes. Now that we have a better idea of what awaits us ecologically, I expect everybody to parse databases, run simulations, and have as many models as possible for potential extinction-level events organized in order of probability by the time we arrive in..." His eyes glanced at the chronometer. "... six hours, if that QSD specialist's estimate proves accurate."

" hurts me deeply when you let the biologic's do the work of a computer," Ferrofax said without a hint of hurt in his voice.

"Well, naturally I'd have you check their work," Mrazak said. "We can't afford any mistakes on this one."

That made Akiva smirk with no shame.

Storr couldn't help but notice Akiva's self-assuredness as he sat next to the Station Administrator and made a mental note to catch up with the Hebron after the meeting was over, which thankfully seemed imminent. He needed to tell someone about Jaya's pregnancy anyway and this was as good enough a reason to chat up Akiva as any (though he never truly needed a pretense to talk with his old friend). He also caught Rodi's eyes and gave a quick "4" then "2," indicating that he wanted to meet on the lowest deck in Armory 2 with the team. The Gunny gave the LTC a quick nod and Garlake nodded back, completing their mostly-covert communication; this had the potential to be anything from cataclysmic to a giant nothingburger so he wanted to touch base with his fellow Marines in the limited amount of time they had before arrival.

"What in fiery fusion are you doing?" Mrazak asked the Marines. "Never mind. I don't want to hear anything but theories. If there's nothing else, then let's get to work."


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